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"We've Never Done It That Way"

At one point or another, every founder bristles at hearing, “But we’ve never done it that way.”

At one point or another, every founder bristles at hearing, “But we’ve never done it that way.”

And it’s all-too-common at B2B startups, where new ideas often fly in the face of how things have always been done.

Recently Cricket put together a catalog of return policies that were out there. In order to get to where we wanted to go, we reasoned, we needed to understand where we were starting from.

What we didn’t expect to see was the vast majority of return policies looking like legal documents:

Return Policy as CYA

This wasn’t a return policy but a cover-your-@$$ page.

We talk with many online retailers about their returns, and the challenges they face balancing customer satisfaction with huge (and rising) costs.

Often we find ourselves suggesting, “Well, why not have different policies for different transactions?”

“We’ve never done it that way”.

But sit with these retailers a little longer, it became apparent there was a gap between what their return policy said….and what they actually did:

“Our return policy is a firm 30 days. But we extend it if the customer shopped with us a lot in the past 6 months.”

“We want to start charging fees to customers we always lose money on. We just need to find them.”

“Typically we don’t take certain items back. But if we feel good about reselling it, we allow it.”

“We give allowances if it’s a first time customer. Or if they come from Instagram.”

“We definitely don’t take used items. But there are always exceptions, right?”

More and more retailers were breaking away from “the policy” and tailoring returns to convert sales and drive loyalty.

Returns are moving from CYA…to CRM.

We saw customer service teams doing mental gymnastics as they weighed the potential value of a transaction (and future transactions) with the cost of each return. And they were using data that was cobbled together, incomplete, part anecdotal. It was slow, painful, error prone, and it just bled inefficiency.

Return policies were broken, and retailers were using duct tape.

The return policy had turned into an outdated relic sitting on a back page as retailers increasingly used different returns for different transactions. Even if many fell outside “the policy”.

Cricket saw a huge opportunity for a product that could optimize this emerging way of managing returns: bring together all the relevant pieces of data, and let retailers easily understand and act on that data. No more relying on cumbersome processes, incomplete information, or ballpark analyses.

Retailers already use dynamic return policies. They just don’t realize it.

When we first started Cricket, we wanted to redefine online returns to reflect what they actually did for retailers. We recognized returns’ impact on both the bottom line AND the topline, and thought retailers should tailor returns to each and every transaction.

It was an ambitious endeavor. And a lot of folks asked us whether it could be done.

What Cricket is super excited about is that retailers are already attempting to do this themselves, if in a rogue-ish way. They are breaking away from stated one-size-fits-all policies and using returns for what they really are: targeted marketing tools. They just need a better, more confident system.

Today, we know a lot of folks wonder whether dynamic return policies are too radical. Whether retailers would really adopt variable returns because they’ve “never done it that way”.

After spending dozens of hours with retailers, our response to that is: they already are.

Liesl Chang

Co-Founder & CEO